The Journal of Failure – Week 46 of 2020

Week 46 of 2020 – 4 November to 10 November 2020

Goals

Reading

  • Goal – 100 / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 1,090/700 – Success!

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 7 / week
  • Achieved – 9/14 – Success!

Writing – Small Projects (Fragments, short stories, etc)

  • Goal – 1 minute, 20 seconds / day or 9 minutes, 20 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 17 minutes, 16 seconds – Success!

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – 1 minute, 20 seconds / day or 9 minutes, 20 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 20 minutes, 31 seconds – Success!

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – Zero (Five total for the year)
  • Submissions – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Rejections – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Acceptances – Zero (Zero total for the year)

Commentary

Week X!

A week of resetting.  A week of calibration.  A week of determining what it is, exactly, that I want.

October 2020 was, for me, an exceptionally busy period at work.  Consequently, writing and reading fell by the wayside.  But this time is over, now, and I simply must refocus my energy on the things that matter.  There’s so little time available to us all.

I have a child coming.  My second.  They will be here in April, and the habits I develop now will help appreciate and utilise the small amounts of time I will have to myself when they are here.  Right now, I am in a golden period of life, because my daughter (2) goes to bed early and my wife (34) goes to bed early and I (38) can go to bed whenever I like.  Similar to Machiavelli, the idea of reading and writing into the night while socialising with and sharing ideas with the greatest minds of all time, is very heaven.  And so I must do that.

This week, reading went quite well.  I read some fantasy nonsense, which was great.  And quite a bit of actual fine and good literature.  Kadare, Bernhard, Howe – these are fine names.  Fine names.

I wrote, for the first time in quite a while.  A new short story, cribbing from an overhead story in my own life.  I am not sure if this will become a story worth completing, but it’s being written and that is the primary goal.

Otherwise, I have re-categorised my current short works in progress to better attain a high-level view of the work I need to redraft, the work that needs to be complete, the work that needs to be submitted.  I aim to tackle the end of 2020 and the entirety of 2021 with the fullness of my ego, arrogance and talent, which means I must and will submit, submit, submit.  No more crouching in shadows, it’s time to write and publish.  I have read enough.

I aim to polish and complete my story about a failed gangster in Belarus.   I aim to polish and complete my story about a disappointed housewife.  I aim to polish and complete my story about a man who regrets everything in his life while aiding an idle rich fool to murder an abhorrent dentist.  With all of these stories, I want to combine the high and the low (see – Saul Bellow) with the violence of power and the futility of art (see – Bolaño).  I admire the capacity of evil to be seductive, I appreciate the flower that grows in the muck.  I appreciate failed individuals who nonetheless keep pushing their Sisyphean boulder.  I admire the unknowable grandness of men and women who contain multitudes and magnitudes.

In terms of a larger novel, I have returned, I think, to my novella on Rasputin.  I read it this week, and while I recognise many clumsy, choppy areas, I think that the overall thrust is fascinating and capable of exploring many of the ideas that I care about.  The polyphony of voices is a touch too-Bolaño, which remains a constant concern for me.  When I flounder in terms of ideas or plot or the next word, I devolve to what I know, and what I know how to do is cut-rate Bolaño and mawkish sentimentality.  I can fix the former but not the latter – eschew sloth and excise everything cliche.  Be better.

I recognise these writing goals are small.  They should be entirely achievable, and to not achieve them suggests to myself and the world that I am not actually interested in writing.  But I also want to ease myself in and increase the pressure – specifically 10 seconds / day / week in short story writing, and 20 seconds / day / week in longer form writing.  The gradual grind up and up suits me alright, and has worked in the past, but oh my, I dislike when I fall back and need to restart.  What’s wrong with me?  Time is hurtling by.

I finished Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World.  This is the first book in his 13ish book series, The Wheel of Time.  It’s fine. It’s fine.  I read it when I was 16 and thus it will always have a place in my heart.  Reading this book is me returning to old friends.  Friends I’d like to see for a little while, but not every weekend.  I usually read the first three, or first five, books of the series, before finishing.  Both points offer neat and clear end points, and in both cases, the extra novels diminish the totality.  I’ve never completed the series (and nor did Jordan, who died), and I am unsure if I ever will.  The gender issues make me very uncomfortable, and the explosion of minor characters drags everything to a crawl.  When I read fantasy I want to be pushed along by the plot.  I don’t want to make notes and keep a record of nations, political systems, factions, etc, etc, etc.

Anyway, on to the real and true literature!

Susan Howe’s Debths was an exceptional discovery for me.  She is an American poet, and her focus (at least for this book) is found texts and memory.  This collection really blew me away – I have never read anything like it.  The corruption of public domain text alongside brief pieces on memory were just fantastic.  I am not fully equipped to comment upon poetry, as I haven’t really read enough, but this was a revelation.

Thomas Bernhard’s My Prizes is a collection of pieces by Bernhard surrounding the prizes he won throughout his life.  And while he is curmudgeonly throughout he certainly, ah, accepted the prizes and prize money.  Sure, he was poor, but there’s a certain lack of integrity here which makes the entire collection somewhat uncomfortable.  Particularly because Bernhard himself boiled his life down to integrity, integrity, integrity.

Ismail Kadare’s The Successor is a great novella that is about 30 pages too long.  It opens with the successor to the current dictator in Albania being dead, perhaps killed, perhaps a suicide.  We don’t know.  Kadare keeps the view of the novella high and broad, providing an understanding of the general political and cultural situation of the city and nation.  This is very good.  The middle section concerns itself too heavily, I think, with characters, names, particulars – this is a book that would have been stronger if it had stayed almost entirely as a fable.  Nonetheless, it’s quite good, and highlights, yet again, that Kadare is a Nobel-worthy writer.  When will his time come?

And that was my week of failure.

Each week I aim to provide an update on the Journal of Failure.  These reports are intended to provide an impetus for me to achieve as much as I should/more than I do, and also to provide a further ongoing record of my life, as it is. 

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